Thursday, December 29, 2011

麺処 井の庄 - Inoshou, Shakuji Koen

味玉つけ麺 - Tsukemen with Egg, ¥880

    In the unlikely event that you find yourself both in Shakuji Koen and in need of a quick bowl of ramen then Inoshou is probably the place for you. Despite the drab exterior the large brick building that houses Inoshou is an entertainment district of sorts with a couple of pachinko parlours and a convenience store. Inoshou is in the basement.

   There will likely be a little wait when you get here - it's a pretty highly rated shop - but it shouldn't be more than a few minutes. You'll also be asked whether you want chumori or atsumori, hot or cold noodles. I went for the cold. The oddly shaped counter leaves a few empty spaces that they thankfully don't try to squeeze a couple of extra seats into. Of course this meant that the condiments and tissues were about one metre directly in front of me.

    I can see why this ramen is currently rated in the Top 20 in Ramen Walker magazine as everything about it was great. Though I would say that the noodles cooled the soup down quite quickly. Perhaps you can try the atsumori... The fatty chunks of chashu were different to what I usually see with tsukemen but everything in this dish complimented something else.

   The soup wari was one of the best I've had and added a little spice to it. Maybe it was channeling their other tsukemen which is an out-and-out spicy dish (辛辛). It's little a fun too as the staff trust you to do it yourself.

   So it's another tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen that I've tried here. But I would say that it's definitely one of the most unique. Definitely worth a try if you're into that kind of thing...

Monday, December 26, 2011

元祖中華つけ麺大王 - Ganso, Jiyugaoka

坦々麺 - Tantanmen, ¥850

   Being a lazy blogger, I tend not to find myself too far away from home in the search for ramen, (and recently I've been trying to revisit some of my favourite places) but on this particular day it was out to fashionable Jiyugaoka for a visit to Ganso on a recommendation.
   The shop seems pretty popular with the locals and there was a pretty good turnover of customers squeezing behind us while we were seated at the counter. And it definitely gives off the impression that ramen is essentially the people's food. There weren't any gimmicks or unusual ingredients to bring the punters in.
  Despite the fact that the shio ramen was allocated an entire page of the menu, I went with the single-lined tantanmen.

    A pretty nice bowl with a lot of sesame and the ground beef blends in well with the soup. It's difficult for me to have a tantanmen without comparing it to the amazing Toutenka which would probably be my default ramen store. But it was a good choice. Since my body was pleading with me not to eat ramen at all this particular afternoon I played it conservatively...

   Did I mention they also have freshly made gyoza?

   Jiyugaoka isn't exactly known for it's ramen but if you find yourself in the area...

Google Maps

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

朧月 - Oborozuki, Ginza

中華そば玉子入り - Chuka Soba with Egg, ¥750 (+¥100)

    As you're probably well aware, ramen is serious business. With around 5000 stores in Tokyo alone there is  not only a lot of competition, but a lot of variety between stores. This is pretty evident through the ramen alone but it can also be the atmosphere of the store and the way that staff interact with their customers. Here at Oborozuki, there was no interaction - the chef was dead serious, a point that is hard to conceal from your customers when they can sit at the low counter and, with nothing much else to do while waiting, pore over your every move. The chef didn't mind working alone though, his assistant was just that - pouring waters, removing empty bowls and making sure the orders were in the right place.

    Of course, you don't go to a ramen store to admire the aesthetics of the restaurant, a visit shouldn't last anymore than 30 minutes. You'll be back if it tastes good. With this at the forefront of our minds we decided to double our chances of finding a good bowl. The tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen arrived first. Which by all accounts was pretty good - everyone but me was slurping it.

  I went with the shoyu flavoured chukasoba.

   As per usual, I ordered an egg as topping, but this came with a little surprise, an uzura egg, Japanese quail. A little unsure of it, it was the first to go - it was a lot smaller and quite different to a regular egg. I could then set about my ramen. It was quite a filling bowl, perhaps it was the umami flavour which made it very wholesome. Some nice, curly noodles matched the soup perfectly too.

    Although Ginza isn't known for it's ramen, there are quite a few good shops around.  Just don't expect a fun time and a lot of smiles.

Ramen Database

Google Maps

Thursday, December 1, 2011

江戸前煮干中華そば きみはん - Kimihan, Uguisudani

特性江戸前煮干中華そば醤油 - Special Niboshi Shoyu Ramen, ¥900

    Yet another trip to a northern Tokyo ramen shop in the shitamachi area of Uguisudani, this time to fulfil another craving for niboshi ramen which, after eating at nagi and tomita shokudo, I'm experiencing a lot lately. The full title of Kimihan starts with edo mae, Tokyo style. This is usually reserved for sushi and references the old name of Tokyo (Edo) and the fact that the fish were caught in the area around Tokyo Bay. In saying that, I'm pretty sure that these particular fish weren't since Tokyo Bay probably doesn't have the purest water I've come across.

   With 'TEAM 102' emblazoned across their backs, you might have guessed that this store has some kind of connection to the famous Tetsu in Sendagi. And you'd be right... The signs around the shop confirm that they studied how to make tsukemen under the tutelage of Mr. Tetsu himself. This doesn't necessarily mean that the kitchen doesn't occasionally have some minor deficiencies. 

  Of course, with the cooler weather in Tokyo, the ramen was pretty much a no-brainer.

   The special part, tokusei, in the title essentially means that your ramen will have a little more of everything and in this case it seemed like a lot more of everything. In this case it was 4 slices of chashu, a couple of wontons and an egg cooked to near perfection.

    From the very first slurp of the soup the powerful taste of yuzu was evident, along with some small pieces of yuzu peel here and there. At first, this was a nice surprise and quite intriguing, but as the voluminous bowl went on it was perhaps a little too much yuzu for one day. Not surprisingly, I guess, it ended up tasting a little like tsukemen... Which isn't of course a bad thing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ramenya, Melbourne

Shoyu Charshu Ramen, $10

   Another short trip back to Melbourne and another chance to sample what the city has to offer to the world of ramen. Having done a little research this time, everything seemed to point towards the suitably named Ramenya in equally appropriate Postal Lane, the restaurant area of the GPO running from Bourke St through to Little Bourke. It seems that the noodles could be a major attraction.

    We took up a table outside of the store in the lane itself just before the lunchtime rush. It was interesting to see that people have adapted to the notion of ramen as a food that can be enjoyed alone, as dining in Melbourne tends to be more of a social interaction. The Japanesey feel was complete with some heavily pixelated images that resemble the old asahi posters that you see around Tokyo.

    When ordering you have the choice of 3 different soup bases (tonkotsu, shoyu and miso) and then you can select from a few different styles including charshu, gyoza and kim chi. I ordered the tonkotsu charshu and received the shoyu one...

    It was better than I had anticipated. The only odd ingredient I encountered was beni shoga, A type of pickled ginger that is usually reserved for yakisoba or gyudon. With that soon out of the way, I set upon the rest of the bowl. The shoyu flavour of the chashu itself was particularly strong and the egg perhaps a little overcooked, however this is more likely attributed to the typical Australian's palate rather than a chef's mistake. The interesting gyoza ramen was much the same.

    I was quite keen to try the tonkotsu soup as generally this would be the hardest to perfect and, as such, a better indication of the chef's prowess. Miso, however, usually has the widest margin for error so this could be the one to try for the less adventurous. That doesn't mean that the shoyu wasn't finished to the last drop.

   This could well be the place to come for the most authentic Japanese ramen in Melbourne. As long as you don't order the kim chi...

Google Maps

Ramenya Homepage

Ramen Ya on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 3, 2011

らーめん神下 大喜 - Daiki, Yushima

特製醤油らーめん - Special Shoyu Ramen, ¥980

    Now that I'm in the middle of a bit of a shio ramen phase, the next obvious step would be to see if I could find another shop in northern Tokyo (lazy) that could match one of my new favourite stores, Hidamali. And so it was off to Yushima, the area full of late-night drinking dens for thirsty salarymen just on the other side of Ueno Park, to join the queue at Daiki.

    One of the staff members came to check our tickets while we were waiting and, luckily for our party of two, we were told there was just enough soup for us and the others behind us would have to re-order. Unfortunately a few minutes later there would only be enough for one. So I decided to go with the special shoyu ramen.
    As you can imagine, the constant line keeps them busy...

    My wait was accompanied by the dulcet tones of Bette Midler's Wind Beneath My Wings which seemed an odd choice. However, as the song seemed to drag on forever, I noticed that it was on a 30 second loop. A peculiar choice of music that these poor souls may have to tolerate all day. As long as it doesn't affect the the ramen....
   The last bowl of shio for the day...

   And then my shoyu came too.

     The shio ramen is the store's recommended dish so I was a little disappointed to have to settle for the shoyu, but it turned out to be a pretty handy consolation. A nice dashi flavoured soup full of surprises.

    Wontons! They're not surprises now... Nor are they if you bother to read the menu...

    Overall it was a very solid bowl of ramen, but I don't know whether I would wait another 20 minutes in a line only to have to endure Bette Midler again.

Ramen Database

Google Maps

Daiki Homepage

Thursday, October 27, 2011

あたりや食堂 - Atariya, Akihabara

雷々麺 - Rairaimen, ¥800

    Another newish store, opened in July, and another first for this blog - soupless ramen. This original recipe originated in Miyazaki prefecture and was created by the chef's father (who still runs a store in Kyushu). This brother and sister team came here to see how the store goes in Tokyo. Unfortunately, as you might imagine, there weren't many customers on a Saturday night, but I could imagine lunchtime on a weekday being pretty hectic.

    The chef was chatty and friendly and warned me that it was "chotto salty." Got it.

    As it turns out, soupless ramen can look a lot like regular ramen when it is served. However it pretty quickly turns itself inside out - particularly if you follow the how-to-eat instructions which recommend eating the noodles first then making an attack on the toppings.

    A pretty spicy affair and the sauce is punctuated by sweet, thickly-cut pieces of onion and chunks of satsuma age, a fried fishcake that hails from Kyushu. I'm not usually a fan of soft noodles but I think they were well-suited to this style of ramen.

     There's no ticket machine here - remember that you'll have to pay after you eat, just like a regular restaurant. I was halfway out the door before I remembered...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

麺や ひだまり - Hidamali, Sendagi

味玉和風塩らぁ麺 - Shio Ramen with Egg, ¥780

   A little off the beaten path and just down the way from one of my favourite not-so-well-known areas of Tokyo, Yanaka, is the pretty recently opened Hidamali. As the weather is cooling down it's obviously a good time for ramen. As such, the ramen magazines have hit the stands and in trying to offer a little variety I thought I would hit up a new store with a first for this blog - shio ramen. (salt)
   Being a new store in a quiet area on a rainy night, there weren't a great deal of customers, although it has a pleasant atmosphere inside and was definitely favourable to the rain. It's certainly not your average dimly-lit ramen store.

   And you can stay for a drink...

   or not...

   Shio is often the forgotten type of ramen with the recent boom (by which I mean a few years before I had ever eaten ramen) of tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen with flavour bursting from the bowl and double soups and all the new innovations one could imagine. Shio is thought to be the least interesting which leads some to think it's boring.

    But this one doesn't seem to be...

    Everything about this bowl of ramen was great. From one of the most flavourful eggs I've had to the light to the peppery flavoured soup, there was nothing boring about this at all. In fact, the soup is so complex that it is made from four different kinds of salt. I dare you to be able to tell the difference though.

    If you've still got some room left head upstairs and have a drink at a cool little bar where the menu is accompanied by the owner's reviews of recent films.